Alexandre Rougeot is the director and founder of Clos Cachet, a French wine importer in Australia. We spoke at length about Clos Cachet, his family winery and about wine, of course! Across the coming months, you’re going to get to know French wine importers in Australia. Get to know Alexandre Rougeot de Clos Cachet.
Alexandre Rougeot, when we spoke in relation to the article about French wine importers in Australia, you mentioned that you are from a wine making family. A family that has made wine for 6 generations in Meursault, Burgundy. Tell us about your memories of growing up in a wine family.
Growing up at the heart of a wine-making family makes me very proud and was a great joy. It’s a little like the feeling of growing up in a farm family. All of the family is put to work and participates in the daily manual work. In growing up, from a very young age, I was able to help my parents on the vines and on the winery. Given that the estate is also the house in which I grew up, we always had something to do to help. For example, during harvest, I loved coming walking home from Mersault primary school and tasting the grapes just picked from the vines. Being a wine-maker is a family affair, everyone is involved.
Was it expected that you would follow the family by continuing to make wine?
In some ways, I was lucky because my parents never pushed me to take over the family estate. That’s why my passion developed naturally and in a very strong way. I decided to study viticulture once I finished high school. However, progressively during my studies, I travelled a lot and that gave me the desire to diversify the family business.
What does wine mean to you?
Wine is an integral part of my life, a product which has a history, an artistic side, a philosophical side and a very strong cultural side. It’s a product which has always accompanied modern civilisations and which makes it easy to create social ties. It’s a strong fabric of our communities and the life that we love. It’s one of indulgence and sharing.
You are the owner and wine-maker of the family winery, Domaine Rougeot à Meursault, Bourgogne. What are the challenges in making wine in France when you are in Australia? How much time do you spend in France each year?
Today, it’s my oldest brother Pierre-Henri, who looks after the estate with my father Marc. We work as a team, however I cannot take part in the work of the vines nor the wine making. Or at least not manually. We work together on the orientation of the estate in terms of viticulture and wine-making but also for commerce. It gives me the flexibility to be in Australia and run Clos Cachet and now Le Club. At the same time, I spend a month in France each year and that is bound to increase.
Has the COVID-19 situation caused problems?
A lot of problems have emerged following COVID-19. First of all, as much for the estate as for Clos Cachet, sales have plummeted. What’s more, we were no longer able to travel to visit our clients. On the other hand, working on the vines is possible and it was done well.
Why did you found Clos Cachet in 2014?
With my wife being Australianm, we moved to Melbourne in 2011. It was clear to me that I as going to continue working in the wine industry. I have always had in mind that I would open my own business. After a few years studying the market, my wife and I launched Clos Cachet. A
Il était clair pour moi de continuer à travailler dans l’industrie du vin. J’avais toujours en tête de lancer mon propre business. Après quelques années à étudier le marché, ma femme et moi avons lancé Clos Cachet. A great opportunity presented itself, an opening in the market that made Clos Cachet possible.
Why the name “Clos Cachet”?
Clos Cachet has its roots in the mission entrusted to it. A “clos” in Burgundy is a prestigious winery, encircled by a wall which gives it importance, makes it more visible but also retains the ground that it contains. Something which has some “cachet” is something authentic, connected to its racines. It’s the same spelling and definition in English. The wines that we import with Clos Cachet are wines that have a strong connection to their origin, the vines, the provenance and their location. Prestigious wines for their taste and complexity.
You founded Clos Cachet with the aim of introducing French wines to Australians. Wines that we don’t normally come across. Why don’t we normally find them?
The wines that we import are products in small quantities because they come from very specific sectors, known for their exceptional character. By their nature, they cannot be made in an industrial manner, but in an artisanal one. For example, a meursault 1er cru “Les Charmes” which comes from the village of Meursault. The law has set the size of the appellation as 31 hectares, not more.
How is Clos Cachet different to other Australian wine shops?
Firstly, the selection of wines is crucial and the quality imperative. We are lucky to work with such talented winemakers. These same winemakers only very rarely accept new clients as their production is very limited. It’s therefore an honour to work with the. That’s why out distribution differs from that of other merchants. We spend a lot of time educating professionals and individuals about the greatness of these wines. That’s why every month, we create numerous experiences (dinners, dégustations) to spread the word and to bring these wines to life. We wish to create a strong link between Australia and French wines, a link which already exists but merits further development.
Recently, Clos Cachet launched Le Club. Tell us about this wine subscription.
It’s true because at Clos Cachet, we have a discerning clientele. What also fascinates me about my wine-making adventure is being able to talk to everyone, to open the doors of its great wines to everyone.
With Le Club, we break down barriers, and in a relaxed, fun way, we invite everyone to start their adventure with French wines.
Every month, we send our members two to four different wines, with a tasting video, tasting notes, and a recipe written by a great chef. In this way, we hope to make French wines even more accessible, where many consumers might not have dared, they now have no more excuses.
Le Club, is the joie de vivre, the savoir-faire, a superb quality of wine, delivered in a beautiful box, every month. The quality/price ratio is unrivalled and we import all the wines directly, only after tasting them at the producer’s premises. As The Club evolves, we will also offer bottled vintages, especially for our members. Very exclusive!
How do French wines differ to Australian wines?
When one assumes that the provenance and therefore the microenvironment in which the vineyard is planted is the keystone of the wine’s identity, quality French wines are very different from quality Australian wines. Each one has its own identity, as the vines grow on different soils, with different temperatures and cultivated with different know-how.
It is difficult to generalise, however the technique to diminish the gap and differences between the two on some wines. Let’s say that artisanal wines are unique in both countries. An Australian industrial wine is very similar to a French industrial wine. The beauty is in the details of what I call a great wine. A great wine is first of all emotion, not necessarily a high price. In this category, French wines are very different to Australian wines, because the terroir is very different. The fruit, the tanins, the acidity, the sweetness express themselves differently.
Equally, how is wine culture different in Australia to French wine culture?
The French have a very special, even obsessive, relationship with wine. There is an important respect for wine because it is part of a culture, a history and people. This means that interest is great, and that wine is very often part of the cultural life of the French, and this from a very young age. However, the French could be criticized for drinking only French wine, although this is changing.
In Australia, wine culture is a more recent thing, and as such does not yet have the same cultural meaning. However, wine culture is in strong progression, and I hope that on our little level, we are able to contribute to the growth of it. Many young Australians do not feel the need to understand wine. In France, it is necessary.
For you, what does French culture bring to Australia?
I think that Australia loves French culture because it brings a gaiety, an appetite to see and meet others and to share. The two cultures are very complementary and evolve together. However, it is difficult to say that Australia has one culture, rather I would say that it current cultures.
What are the differences between Australian and French cultures?
We could write a thesis on this subject.
French culture is very strong, understood, known and clear in a way. Cinema, history, music, joy, transgression, humor, these are all nuances that the French language transmits with ease and complexity.
French culture is assimilated unlike Australian multiculturalism, which highlights all the colours that comprise it. An Australian can twirl between Italian, Indian, Chinese, Greek, French and many other cultures in a short period of time.
What do you miss from France?
Not much, as I am not unhappy with my life in Australia, as I chose it and I like it. I am lucky to mix French culture in France and in Australia, thanks to my friends, wine, my travels, diverse restaurants and cultural events that take place in Australia. The most difficulty thing of course is the distance that separates me from my French family.
If you knew it was to be your last ever glass, which wine would you drink?
Without hesitation, a glass of La Tâche 1959 from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, a wine which has already made me very emotional.
You can buy French wines from Clos Cachet via its website.
Which French wines do you like to drink?